Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

lost generation

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 07, 2006

On Touchstone's Mere Comments blog, S. M. Hutchens comments on the C of E's refusal of ordination to Nick Howard (son of Tory Michael Howard), and discusses his own earlier rejection on the grounds of unbecoming rigidity:

I had a similar experience in the Episcopal Church, where I put myself forward as a candidate for the priesthood near the beginning of Frank Griswold’s episcopacy in the Diocese of Chicago. In those days the progressives' most obvious pons asinorum was women’s ordination. Two of us in the weekend candidates’ retreat were quickly identified as opposing it. We were rejected, of course ... Out we went with the other cranks, the ill-spoken, and the unlovely -- those who at any time would have been judged as insufficiently reflective of Episcopalian society.

Hutchens admits that, given the reality of contemporary Anglicanism, the parting of ways was inevitable, but the timidity of his putative supporters was not:

Angry and chagrined at the time, I now thank God for the deliverance. I would have had to leave anyway, sooner rather than later. On later reflection, what bothered me most about what happened to the likes of [my fellow conservative] and Nick and me, and many others like us, is not so much that we fell victim to the unjust reign of an evil party in the church. We were all hoping, no doubt, to slip by it, but none of us were really surprised, I suppose, when we didn’t. We knew with whom we were dealing. ...

No, what bothered me was that the professed orthodox within the church did not react appropriately. Their general response to news like the rejection of people like Nick Howard, no matter how many times multiplied, no matter how strongly shown to be attributable to orthodox conviction rather than personal fault, never amounted to effective resistance.

These head-in-the-sand Anglican conservatives have their counterparts among orthodox Catholics as well. In examining the fallout from The Crisis, more than once OTR has drawn attention to one of the best-hidden consequences of the rot that pervaded the programs of priestly formation: the forced departure of upright and gutsy seminarians who refused to play along with corruption (doctrinal or sexual) of their superiors. In the course of one discussion of the problem, commenter Charles wrote:

Not everyone who's been booted from a seminary (or two) ends up happily married and gainfully employed. Some wander for years wondering what the hell happened to their vocation and where they should go from there. The "good-bye good men" guys don't just vanish; they're still around and a lot of them are rather shell-shocked. There's very little (by which I of course mean none) support available for this group.

Just as Bishop Symons and his brethren assured us that accusations of priestly thieving were baseless, and accusations of priestly pederasty were baseless, and accusations of episcopal cover-ups were baseless -- until they were forced to cough up the documents that proved the opposite -- so we've been encouraged to think that accusations of gross malfeasance in the seminaries are mythical. They aren't. Yet, while one hears plenty of indignation about the other travesties of ecclesial justice, there's a general silence about the men who stood up to the blackguards instead of rolling over.

S. M. Hutchens was able to come to terms with his ouster because he recognizes that the Episcopal Church, by overt declaration, had aligned itself with Leftist ideology. But the Catholic "good-bye good men" guys are in a different position. They adhere to the stated teaching of the Church; it was the formators that tossed them out who have problems with it -- with the teaching itself, and with the men who took it seriously. On the Catholic scene, it was the covert ethos that ruled.

Because the real litmus was covert, a candidate was seldom told the true reason for his dismissal. No one was ever tossed out on the explicit ground that he supported Church teachings which his formators detested. More often his fidelity was depicted as an authority problem: "Candidate displays a know-it-all attitude toward formation and a rigidity toward theologies and styles of worship different from his own. Not suitable for ministry." Seminary staff got their hunting license from bishops like Wilton Gregory, addressing the National Association of Diocesan Vocation Directors, who phrased it in code they could understand: "it is important not to give potential students the impression that they are those who must decide matters of orthodoxy, liturgical propriety and spiritual merit." Doubtless many formators got the hint; doubtless many seminarians got the push.

It may be the case that the pain of a vocation declared unfit to live is too abstract and interior to catch the imagination of many people. But most Catholics should be able to understand that it's the good guys that make hard sacrifices to enter the seminary -- who take leave of worthy girlfriends and forfeit honorable careers and often go through wrenching scenes with their families -- and when these sacrifices are made futile by the malevolent caprice of the Formation Team, most Catholics should be able to see that some reparation is called for.

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